(Editor’s note: This is a LONG article, chock full of fabulous information… go grab yourself a cuppa, and sit a spell…)
While there may be as many different kinds of stamps and card making styles in Europe as there are in North America, I am going to generalize for the purposes of this article and discuss the stamps and styles of five European stamping companies I am addicted to: Magnolia Stamps from Sweden, Whiff of Joy from Switzerland, Stampavie from France, Toodles & Binks from the UK, and Elzybells Stamps in the UK. This article will discuss these European companies, as well as the European style of paper crafting that is often used with these kinds of stamps. I will also briefly talk about the rise in the popularity of European stamps and the European style of card making in North America as it relates to these companies.
Magnolia Stamps has two different lines within the company that revolve around different characters. The most popular line in the company is the Tilda and Edwin Collection, accompanied by Baby Alvin and Tingla. Often (but not always) with angel wings, they are little children with chubby cheeks that can be seen in different poses wearing clothing from different time periods, events, seasons and holidays. The style is a unique fusion between homespun folk and modern trendy.
They were not easy to find in North America until recently, but are now experiencing a sudden rise in popularity thanks to bloggers, popular paper crafting forums, and retailers.
Whiff of Joy
Owner Katharina Frei loved card-making so much she left her job in the medical field to start her own stamp company, Whiff of Joy, with her husband in July 2008. Using established professional artists, American Elisabeth Bell, and Canadian Alison Acton as illustrators, the unmounted red rubber stamps are highly detailed and the largest of the group (for example, Willow with Lantern is 2 3/4 wide by 4.25 high).
The quality is amazing; of all the stamp companies, Whiff of Joy has the thickest and most deeply etched rubber. The stamps focus around four lines – Guardian Angels with wings Melinda and Matthew, Kids Charlotte and Charlie, and Willow & Oakley, who are a bit older. New characters Lizzie, a teenager and Herb, a snowman, were introduced November 8th for the holidays.
One of the company’s most popular stamps, Willow With Hot Chocolate, can be seen in the card below. Like Magnolia stamps, Whiff of Joy has accessory and background stamps such as books for the reading angel, a pillow heart for the angel holding a heart, and grounded flower backgrounds. Whiff of Joy stamps are the most detailed of the group and perfect for coloring and shading. Alison Acton’s Charlotte and Charlie are kids that are cartoon like, whereas Elisabeth Bell’s designs are whimsical, sweet and romantic.
Toodles & Binks
Toodles & Binks is the “cute” line of parent company Stamp Galaxy, and was created after the owner rediscovered her love of coloring thanks to North American blogs and their recent focus on Copic Markers. Once again, the Internet had its part in the transatlantic exchange of ideas. Toodles & Binks illustrator Genevieve Godbout is a French Canadian who lives in London and works for Disney. You can definitely see a cartoon influence in her stamps. While Celeste the Fairy and Joel the Deer are all about fantasy, the newest stamp, Simone, is a stylish yet cute working woman.
Elzybells stamps do not have the fine detailing of some of the other stamps, which makes them easier to color and less intimidating than the more detailed stamps. The stamps have large, open spaces making them very easy to paper piece without a lot of intricate cutting. Elzybells stamps are available in both wood mounted and unmounted red rubber, and Elizabeth also sells a few clear stamp sets. A much smaller stamp version of Elzybells is distributed in North America by A Muse Artstamps.
Canadian Rachelle Anne Miller’s Lily and Milo line is taken right off the pages of her children’s book illustrations. Her sweet and happy children are very stylized and detailed with tiny dots, stars, and flourishes.
Size: As mentioned above, the main images of these European stamps tend to be larger (an average of 3.5 X 4 inches) than their North American counterparts, which leads to different designing methods. Did the size of the stamps influence card design methods or vice versa? While I can’t answer that, I can say that the European style of card making typically involves creating larger sized cards. Inge Groot, a Netherlands based designer for Whiff of Joy, Magnolia and Elzybells Stamps says “My cards are usually 6 x 6 inches, but a lot of ladies make cards 14 x 14 cm (5.5×5.5 inches)”.
Design: When asked about the difference in styles between North American card makers and their European counterparts. Whiff of Joy owner Katharina Frei says “The American/Canadian stamp style is often simpler, but just as beautiful. The advantage to the simpler style is that people produce a lot of cards in less time, but with a great effectiveness. Europeans tend to use a lot of patterned paper, whereas Americans/Canadians often create their own backgrounds. They also tend to use sentiments as their center of cards and embellish around them. With Europeans sentiments only play a minor role when making cards. Complexly coloured images with a lot of embellishments, often overloaded cards form the European style. But I notice an assimilation on both sides.”
A larger canvas allows for more layers and embellishments. These layers are created with the use of patterned papers and embossed cardstock. As for the embellishments used, Primas, buttons, threads, and beads are used for a busy and detailed collage like card.
Layers are not for patterned paper alone: these larger stamps are often cut using a paper tole process whereby an image is stamped two or more times, cut and layered to product a 3D effect. Cutting and masking against backgrounds to create scenes is very popular.
Subject Matter: These companies all have one thing in common: the cute factor. Stamp subject matter often consists of sweet, whimsical or romanticized images of women, children at play, and chubby cheeked angels. Happy and playful, they embody happy childhood memories.
Unmounted: With the exception of Elzybells, the five companies reviewed today all sell unmounted stamps (Elzybells sells both wood mounted, unmounted and photopolymer). All sell rubber stamps except Stampavie, which only sells photopolymer (clear) stamps.
Detailed Images: It is no coincidence that many European card makers love to color their images. These larger stamps are perfect for coloring. Copic markers are quickly becoming the coloring tool of choice alongside colored pencils and Peerless Watercolours.
- High quality overall
- Large, detailed stamps are fun to color and paper piece
- Cute and unique, many with a quirky personality
- Unmounted stamps don’t take up a lot of room
- Shipping and customs clearance can take a long time (although North American retailers stock some of these companies now too)
- It can be hard to find envelopes for the larger size cards made with these stamps
- Cost: The average European card costs more to make than than an average North American card because of the embellishments; extra postage is often required for mailing
- Some people do not like the cutesy card style and/or the time it takes to make a European style card. These type of cards are not easy to mass produce.
The stamps from these 5 companies have a wonderfully sweet style that allow me to make the most of my coloring and paper tole skills. The subject matter makes me smile and brings back happy childhood memories. The quality of the stamps is very high overall, and the fact that they are unmounted allows room for storage in my small craft room. I highly recommend them. I also like that they are unique and different, and often come with accessory stamps to create scenes.
Where to buy:
Elzybells stamps are available in the larger size I discussed in this article from Elzybells UK. A smaller version, called Elzybells NA, is available through A Muse Artstamps, who distributes them exclusively for North America. Elzybells UK stamps average about £3.25 each for unmounted rubber ($5 US) or £6.50 each for wood mounted ($10 US).
Magnolia Stamps are available directly from the manufacturer in Sweden or in North America from Magnolia-licious. Unmounted EZMount cushioned rubber stamps average in price from $9 – $15 US for the larger background stamps.
Stampavie Stamps (Rachelle Anne Miller, Sarah Kay) are available in North America from the Sweet ‘n Sassy Stamp Shop and many other North American retailers. For a full listing of retailers around the world see the Stampavie site here. They average about $9 US each for unmounted photopolymer (clear) stamps.
Toodles & Binks Stamps are currently only available from Stamp Galaxy. They are £4.50 each (about $7 US) for unmounted red rubber.
Whiff of Joy Stamps are available from the manufacturer in Switzerland or in North America from All That Scraps. For a full listing of retailers around the world please see the Whiff of Joy website. They average about $10-11 US each for unmounted red rubber.
I would love to hear your thoughts and comments concerning European stamps and this article. I will be happy to answer your questions as well.